Turkish economic growth dips as lira crisis darkens outlook

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said, growth was driven by domestic demand despite a moderate slowdown in consumption and investments in the second quarter but the slowdown will become more visible from the third quarter. (Getty Images)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Turkish economic growth dips as lira crisis darkens outlook

  • Tayyip Erdogan has overseen strong growth during his 15 years in power but the economy is now facing challenges after a sharp decline in the lira
  • The government has been working on stimulus measures to stave off the expected slowdown in the coming quarters

ISTANBUL: Turkish economic growth slowed to 5.2 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, data showed on Monday, in what officials described as an economic rebalancing before an expected second-half slowdown as Turkey grapples with a currency crisis.
President Tayyip Erdogan has overseen strong growth during his 15 years in power but the economy is now facing challenges after a sharp decline in the lira, triggered partly by concerns about his influence over monetary policy.
In a Reuters poll, the economy had been expected to grow 5.3 percent in the first quarter. The lira firmed to 6.4550 against the dollar after the data from 6.4850 beforehand.
Second quarter gross domestic product (GDP) expanded a seasonally and calendar adjusted 0.9 percent from the previous quarter, data from the Turkish Statistical Institute showed. Last year the economy grew 7.4 percent.
Growth was driven by domestic demand despite a moderate slowdown in consumption and investments in the second quarter but the slowdown will become more visible from the third quarter, said Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.
Rabobank emerging markets forex strategist Piotr Matys said that, given concerns over the economy overheating, the slowdown from 7.3 percent in the first quarter could be seen as encouraging.
“The Turkish economy is widely expected to lose even more momentum in the coming quarters as a result of significant lira depreciation,” he said, adding that attention was focused on the central bank’s rate-setting meeting on Thursday.
Investors expect the central bank to raise interest rates, but the size of the hike will be crucial, Matys added. The bank left rates on hold at its last meeting in July, defying expectations of a hike.
Data last week showed inflation surged to 17.9 percent year-on-year in August, its highest level since late 2003, prompting the central bank to signal it would take action against “significant risks” to price stability.
In the second quarter, the agricultural sector shrank 1.5 percent year-on-year while the industry sector grew 4.3 percent, the construction sector grew 0.8 percent and services expanded 8 percent.
According to a Reuters poll, the economy is expected to grow 3.3 percent in the year as a whole.
The government has been working on stimulus measures to stave off the expected slowdown in the coming quarters. Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates,” has pushed banks to lend more to boost private spending.
His demands for lower interest rates have fueled concerns that the central bank lacks independence. The lira has tumbled 41 percent against the dollar this year in a slide exacerbated by a bitter diplomatic row with the US.
Officials have said they expect a contraction of the economy in the third quarter and full-year growth of around four percent — below a 5.5 percent government target.


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FACTOID

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.